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Belarusian Music With Meaning

Belarus -- Radio Svaboda Director Alexander Lukashuk performs an original song at the Minsk Palace of Arts.
For the past two years, Night Liberty, a popular show on RFE/RL's Belarusian Service (known locally as Radio Svaboda) has been signing off each night with a new, original song composed by one of many local troubadours. Through music, these artists tell personal stories about Belarus' tumultuous past and describe their hopes for the future.
What we've been doing every night for the past two years - giving new artists a chance to feature their work - is nothing short of phenomenal.

Last week, Minsk's prestigious Palace of Arts hosted a special live performance of these songs, 50 of which are currently available on a new compilation DVD called "Bards on Liberty." [Listen to all of the songs]

So far, about 100 musicians - including Radio Svaboda Director Alexander Lukashuk - have had their works played on Night Liberty. Lukashuk, who performed a rap-style song [listen here] at the Palace of Arts, calls the project "a fantastic reaffirmation of the strength of the Belarusian language, culture, and future." Part of his song has been translated into English:

A Chorus of Bards

For them, something is missing

Radio doesn't entertain, television is boring, movies no fun, the internet beginning to stall

Yet, they won't give in, after all, they still have words

And with those words, they weave poetry about themselves and their friends,

About the quest for their dreams, about choice and elections, about blood on the pavement

Yet these poems are not meant for publication

So they pick up their guitars

And it makes no difference whether there's an audience of two or two thousand,

Whether they're singing in a field or on a hilltop

Their days and nights are complete as long as they have their guitars

Short waves are not meant for arias

They sing ballads and songs, romances and rap, chansons and folk tunes - but not odes

And with these, they become bards of liberty

Their music comes from the language

Every week and every year, they go into the studio and begin to the strum their chords

Without censors, without conductors

And with them is born a chorus of bards of liberty

"Night Liberty provides these local Belarusian artists with an uncensored platform to “strum their chords,” says Lukashuk. "People have been writing and singing their own songs in Belarus for decades, but what we've been doing every night for the past two years - giving new artists a chance to feature their work - is nothing short of phenomenal."

"Bards on Liberty" is Radio Svaboda's fourth multimedia production. The previous three were devoted to the works of renowned Belarusian writer Vasil Bykau.

--Elizabeth Ganshert